Editor’s Note: Every writer needs to take a break sometimes: to put away the tools of the trade – their pencils, pens, notepads, tablets, laptops and/or computers – and let their mind be stimulated by other stories. Sometimes, those stories can be experienced through one-on-one interactions or people watching. Sometimes we take them in by watching TV shows or movies.
And sometimes we enjoy such journeys by way of opening up another author’s book.
In other words, my brain is blank today and I’ve got nothing. Enjoy!
Not So Human – Chapter 1
Sabrina Johnson was sitting across from a sociopath who was out for her blood. Or at least he belonged to a sociopathic organization with that particular goal.
Not that she had any clue about his evil intentions. She just thought it was a bad date.
A really, really bad date.
It had been a mere hour since she first said hello to her internet-matched suitor, but Sabrina’s smile already felt chafed and she was more than ready to go home despite the charming setting she found herself in. The tablecloth beneath her two folded hands was a crisp white, the chandelier dangling from the center of the room was romantically dim, and she herself looked “beautiful.” Eugene had told her as much no less than half a dozen times already.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like compliments. She did. It was just the way they came pouring out of his mouth in a nervous rush that she objected to. She really wished she hadn’t taken so much time planning out the perfect outfit for the evening when it was proving to be such a waste. Sabrina felt like she could have worn a burlap bag and Eugene would still be awestruck.
That meant the dress she was wearing was overkill: an absolute waste from its black and white checks to its printed green flowers and accommodating skirt that flared out just above her knees. She also shouldn’t have splurged on the pearl-shaped earrings, or the matching necklace that flattered both the green in her dress and of her eyes. The same went for the strappy black heels on her feet.
That last purchase had been at Deanda’s insistence. Her roommate had basically bullied her into buying the pair, though Sabrina hadn’t minded at the time when they were so perfect.
Nearly fairytale perfect. That’s what she had thought when she signed her name on the electronic line.
Seventy-two hours later, she was beginning to regret it all.
“So tell me what your parents are like?” Eugene asked the question out of the blue in a nervous rush, his eyes oddly bright, his smile even stranger.
With his short brown hair and trim figure, he wasn’t a bad looking guy per se. He was just a weirdo. And he was making Sabrina uncomfortable.
Then again, she reminded herself, she wouldn’t have appreciated the question regardless. She never did. That part wasn’t his fault, so she answered as reasonably as she always did when the subject came up.
“I never knew my parents. I’m an orphan.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, sounding more curious than sympathetic. There was even a twinge of something like excitement in his voice. “Have you ever done any searches for them?”
“Of course I did.” Sabrina tried hard to keep any bite out of the response. “I just never got any leads worth pursuing. Actually, I never got any leads at all. All I know is I was literally left on a doorstep as a baby.”
After spending her entire adolescence obsessing over her origins, it had taken her until the last few years to come to terms with reality. Growing up was difficult enough without the additional identity crisis of living in one foster home after another, but she had somehow managed.
Anyway, it hadn’t all been dreadful. Confusing and lonesome, yes. But not dreadful. Somehow, Sabrina had always ended up in decent areas under the care of good people. That might have been why she’d never gotten into the kind of trouble so many other orphans did. Drugs, sex, crazy party scenes: She hadn’t experimented with any of them as an adolescent. Not when she had one set after another of nurturing and old-fashioned foster parents.
As a preteen and teenager with a lifetime supply of instability, Sabrina had been particularly susceptible to their honest affection. So when they gave parental lectures about proper behavior, Sabrina listened more often than not. And after a while, avoiding certain kinds of troubles had become something of a habit, she supposed.
That admittedly unusual upbringing had helped her stay safe, and safe is how she still stayed.
Safe and boring: two words that never lasted long in a fairytale.
Despite the occasional weak moment, like the one she’d had three days ago, Sabrina didn’t often buy into stories of slippers and magical mice. She did, however, believe in bad dates. Especially when Eugene didn’t let the subject of her parentage go like a polite person should. He kept pushing for details she quite simply didn’t have.
It made her regret her shoe choice that much more, not because the slingbacks themselves were at fault. She knew she was the one who had screwed up. Her and her stupid imagination, making ridiculous analogies about Cinderella.
The shoes were black, for heaven’s sake. Not glass.
Nor was that the only detail off about the scene in front of her versus the scene she’d prefer. Like it or not, she was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one of the least romantic places on Earth. Out in the more rural areas, it was still home to the Amish, cornfields and courting. In the city, it was all knife fights and gang violence. Hardly the place to find a happily-ever-after.
Then there was the fact that she was twenty-four, not sixteen. And fairytales always centered around a girl’s sixteenth birthday. Maybe her eighteenth if the writer had a less creepy fascination with underage hotties.
Sabrina tried to console herself with the reminder that fairytales were overrated anyway. Yes, they involved long-lost relatives showing up at her door, bearing titles and tiaras. And she couldn’t find much to fault with the idea of a knight in shining armor riding in to rescue her from unwanted suitors. Like Eugene.
But with that privilege came a whole list of negatives: evil witches, fire-breathing dragons and angry sorcerers determined to lock her away somewhere. That kind of drama Sabrina could do without, even if it did come part and parcel with true love’s kiss. So really, she shouldn’t be complaining about her safe and boring existence.
She shouldn’t. But right about then, she was.
Sabrina snuck a covert glance at her phone, which she had slipped out of her handbag and into her lap some time ago. If she hadn’t, she might have lost her cool in the first fifteen minutes of fending off his over-the-top compliments and intrusive inquiries.
If someone had just bothered to tell her why he was so eager to know everything about her, she wouldn’t have stuck around for any length of time, much less the polite two hours that she did.
But no one breathed a word to Sabrina about fairytales being true. And without that vital piece of information, she couldn’t be blamed for believing she was merely having a bad date.
It would have been nice, however, to get some kind of a heads-up as to just how bad it was going to get.
Want to read on? Here’s your chance…